Keremeos volunteer firefighters had their hands full on Sunday night with fires in Cawston and Olalla.
The Keremeos Volunteer Fire Department received its first call at 10:49 p.m. with a call from Kelowna dispatch to respond to an orchard fire at Highway 3 and Barcelo Road in Cawston. The fire was believed to have been started by an orchard thinner whose campfire got out of control.
While tending to that incident, another call took place at 11:51 p.m. to a car fire at the corner of Main Street and Highway 3A in Olalla. Firefighters arrived to find a number of parked vehicles on a property bordering Highway 3A and Main Street fully engulfed in flames. The vehicles included three cargo trucks, a motorhome, a truck and a van.
“I first heard an explosion around 1 o’clock, said Robbie Killborn, who resides in a house on the property. “I tried to fight the flames with a garden hose, but when a nearby propane tank caught fire, it was like a blowtorch.” Killborn said a wind came up and a truck canopy near one of the vehicles caught fire. Several propane tanks vented due to the extreme heat, adding to the blaze and several loud bangs, from exploding tires punctuated the night.
“It went up fast,” he said, adding that flames got within20 or 30 feet from his house.
Both Killborn and his younger brother Randy were burned in the blaze. Randy was ambulanced to Penticton Regional Hospital, where he was subsequently airlifted to Vancouver. He is currently in the burn unit, in intensive care with first, second and third degree burns to 60 per cent of his body. Randy was living in the motorhome at the time of the incident.
“There was nothing we could do to stop it,” Robbie said, “it went up so fast.”
A cube van containing personal effects belonging to a friend of Killborn’s was also consumed by fire.